'Clearer' plans, 'concrete' solutions on school opening sought

Teachers groups on Monday urged President Duterte to announce "clearer” plans and “concrete” solutions on school opening that would prioritize safe, accessible, and quality education for both teachers and students when he delivers his fifth State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA).


Members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines and the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) joined protest actions to urge the Duterte administration to address the pressing concerns of the Filipino people amid the COVID-19 situation in the country -- particularly of those that are related to school opening scheduled next month.

ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio said the national government should set aside a budget that would fund the requisites of safe schools. Instead of the learning continuity plan (LCP) being pushed by DepEd, he noted that a “responsive education not only to ensure access for everyone but also to help the youth surmount the pandemic” should be in place.

TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basas, on the other hand, expressed reservations on the distance learning modalities being pushed by the Department of Education (DepEd), noting that these are limited and would leave a great number of learners behind especially if not planned properly.

Marching from Commonwealth Ave. to the University of the Philippines (UP) in Quezon City, members of ACT led other education workers in the “SONAgKAISA” protest where they registered their demands for safe, accessible, and quality education amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We march today for teachers and staff whose lives are endangered for the lack of safety nets, for millions of learners who will be left disenfranchised by an inaccessible learning program and for parents who are struggling to keep their families afloat amid the sinking economy,” Basilio said. The group also reiterated its opposition to the anti-terrorism law of 2020 which “threatens people’s civil liberties and rights.”

Wearing face shields bearing symbols of their concrete demands, members of ACT called on the President to present his commitments to education during his address. The group is pushing for safe schools, nurses in every school, Internet allowance, laptop for every teacher, mass testing, free treatment, medical fund, defense of academic freedom, and aid and jobs for retrenched private school employees.

ACT also showcased umbrellas bearing their demand for “Ligtas na Balik-Eskwela” (Safe Schools Opening). “We are weeks away from the school opening, and the government only has very little time to fulfill major requisites for safety, accessibility, and quality education for all learners,” Basilio said.

The TDC is anticipating the “final announcement” from the President on the modality of schooling amid the pandemic. “In this SONA, we are expecting a straightforward announcement, whether the schools will open on Aug. 24 or not,” Basas said.

The TDC said there are a lot of things that need to be considered should the government push through with the opening of classes in “whatever form” as announced by Education Secretary Leonor Briones.

Basas noted that the distance learning modalities under DepEd’s LCP, which include online teaching, TV and radio broadcast, and the modular approach can be “problematic” due to various limitations on the side of the students and the teachers.